Hello from St. Paul,
It was reported late last week that Governor Dayton gave double-digit pay raises to his commissioners during the first week of January. These pay increases could cost the state as much as $1.4 million dollars over the biennium. Many of these commissioners were already making six-figure taxpayer funded salaries.
The pay raises range from 19% to 58% with one of the governor’s appointees receiving an $84,000 raise from the previous year’s salary.
At a time when take-home pay for families remains flat and some Minnesotans are still struggling to make ends meet, it’s unfortunate that the governor would approve such massive salary increases for commissioners and political appointees that are already making six-figure, taxpayer funded, salaries.
Updates on Committee and Actions this Week
Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division
We heard three bills in the House Property Tax Committee this past week.
House File 429 extends the final due date for property tax refund claims (homestead credit refunds, targeting refunds, and renter property tax refunds) by two months, to fourteen months after the original due date.
House File 457 requires special taxing districts (such as housing and redevelopment authorities, watershed districts, hospital districts, etc.) to certify their proposed levies (the levies used for truth-in-taxation) by September 30 of each year.
House File 473 reauthorizes and makes permanent the “this old house” program of valuation exclusion for improvements to homes more than 30 years old, and creates a parallel program for improvements to commercial-industrial property.
This week in the Education Finance Committee, we heard a bill that provides funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps Program. The Minnesota Reading Corps provides literacy training to children who range in age from three to third graders. Currently about 1,000 Minnesota Reading Corps tutors work in more than 700 school sites and early learning centers throughout Minnesota.
Health and Human Services Reform
On Tuesday, the Health and Human Services Reform Committee heard a bill that establishes the state’s ABLE program. This program allows people with disabilities and their families to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for qualified expenses including education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses, and other expenses.
Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance
The Public Safety Committee heard House File 191 on Wednesday. This bill offers the recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children. HF 191 amends the Maltreatment of Minors Act in order to implement preliminary recommendations from the task force.
I'd like to thank the following constituents and officials for coming to St. Paul to visit this week:
Jim Elquist, Dodge County Administrator
Steve Gray, Dodge County Commissioner
Jerry Kerber, Inspector General, DHS
Nancy Jackson from the MN DWI Task Force
Paul Meunière from the Youth Intervention Programs Association
Sam Walseth with the MN Rural Education Association
Thank you to those of you who took the time to visit my office at the Capitol this past week. It is always great to meet with folks from back home and discuss different issues that are important to them and the state. If you have not had time to make it to St. Paul this session, I encourage you to make an appointment to do so. I welcome the opportunity to meet with you.
I am grateful to have been appointed by the Speaker to serve on the following commissions and councils: the Legislative Audit Commission, State-County Results Accountability and Service Delivery Redesign Council, and the Legislative Coordinating Commission’s Subcommittee on Claims.
Keeping in Touch
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions, concerns, or comments on any number of issues related to the legislature. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-9236 or via email at email@example.com.